Madison County Chairman Alan J. Dunstan addresses members of the Southwestern Illinois Trade and Investment Council. Pictured (from left) are Nathan Ragan of the U.S. Department of Commerce, Dunstan, Edie Koch, St. Clair County Chairman Mark A. Kern and John Navin, dean of the SIUE School of Business.
EDWARDSVILLE — St. Clair County Chairman Mark A. Kern and Madison County Chairman Alan J. Dunstan have announced the formation of the Southwestern Illinois Trade and Investment Council to promote international trade and foreign investment in St. Clair and Madison counties.
At the council’s first meeting last week at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Kern and Dunstan charged the new council with accomplishing three key objectives: to increase the awareness of global exporting as an opportunity for economic stability and growth in Southwestern Illinois; to identify barriers and form strategies that discourage or limit exports from the region; and to encourage existing and potential global exporters in the region to participate in and support the programs developed by the council.
Dunstan said the council’s formation represents a commitment from the two counties to provide help to private companies and public entities.
“The council will help our two counties capitalize on the export of products produced or grown in our area and further strengthen our reputation as the finest distribution center in the country.”
“The Southwestern Illinois Trade and Investment Council is one of only two such organizations in Illinois,” Dunstan said. “Chairman Kern and I are confident the council will have a significant, positive impact for businesses, manufacturers and the agriculture community in our counties.”
Kern said the council will also have a key role in helping businesses and manufacturers in the two counties take advantage of the lucrative environment for foreign investments.
“St. Clair and Madison counties are poised for growth and investment,” Kern said. “Our counties have an excellent infrastructure system, strong manufacturing and agricultural areas, and offer a highly skilled and educated work force. The Trade and Investment Council will ensure the international business community is aware of the excellent opportunities that exist in southwestern Illinois.
“We, Chairman Dunstan and I, are confident this new council will help our businesses find new markets for their products, establish stronger trade ties, contribute to the economic viability of St. Clair and Madison counties and, ultimately, create jobs for our residents,” Kern said.
Dunstan and Kern are optimistic the council will be successful.
“Madison and St. Clair counties are strategically located and feature state-of-the-art distribution facilities, the majority of which are located within a foreign trade zone, that enable products to be quickly and efficiently distributed,” Dunstan said. “Our distribution centers feature convenient access to four modes of transportation: road, rail, water and air. I am confident the Trade and Investment Council, with the support of the state and our county governments, will generate increased awareness of what Madison and St. Clair counties have to offer.”
Kern also lauded the distribution capabilities of the two counties and cited the strength of the council.
“When identifying potential members of the Southwestern Illinois Trade and Investment Council, we targeted successful professionals with substantial experience in dealing with every aspect of the export and import of products and commodities, in addition to experts in the area of international finance.”
The council is composed of 25 members, including 15 private sector exporters, the county board chairmen of St. Clair and Madison counties; two regional port representatives, three regional airport representatives, a freight forwarder and two banking representatives. Ex-officio members represent the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Illinois Department of Agricultural, U.S. Department of Commerce, Southern Illinois University International Trade Center, Madison County and St. Clair County.
“I am confident these professionals, assisted by representatives of the Illinois and U.S. Departments of Commerce, and St. Clair and Madison counties, will accomplish our overall objective of economic growth for St. Clair County, Madison County and other areas of southwestern Illinois,” Kern said.
Key Illinois export facts
- Illinois placed fifth among the 50 states (No. 1 in the Midwest) in total exports last year with more than $68 billion in international shipments.
- Since 2009, Illinois exports have increased by $24.2 billion, or 58 percent, outperforming the national average of 50 percent.
- In 2014, products from Illinois were sent to 217 countries.
- Top countries for Illinois’ exports are Canada, Mexico, China, Germany, Japan, Australia, Brazil, Belgium, United Kingdom and Netherlands.
- 90 percent of Illinois exporters (22,770) were small and medium-size businesses accounting for 24.8 percent of total state exports (2013 data).
- Direct exports accounted for nearly 10 percent of the gross state product in 2013.
- Wages for workers in manufacturing and service exporting sectors, where Illinois is strongest, substantially exceed the U.S. average.
- International sales are the key to long-term business survival in today’s competitive global environment.
- Illinois industries with significant export potential include: industrial machinery, agricultural products, transportation equipment, chemicals, computers, electronic/electrical products, metals and plastics.